Here’s the truth: I always have a really hard time when people ask me what my favorite restaurant dessert is in Boston. It’s tough. I imagine it’s how parents feel when they’re asked to pick their favorite child, or how Sarah Jessica Parker feels when she’s asked to pick her favorite shoe. (Except you don’t eat children nor shoes, so maybe it’s not really exactly the same.)
Two years ago I tried really hard and wrote down my list of Top Five Desserts in Boston and Cambridge, and while I still stand by that list, unfortunately a couple of them are not on the menu anymore. So I figured it’s time for an update, and this time I’m giving out awards.
The restaurants are all in the Boston area. If we’re going to be specific, they’re located in Downtown Boston, Brookline, South Boston, and Harvard Square. They’re all from fantastic restaurants – some are new, some are tried and tested – and so I urge you to please save room for these desserts. They’re the perfect sweet endings.
You can’t get any more Boston than this. The Boston Cream Pie was invented at the Omni Parker House, a grand luxury hotel in the heart of Downtown and located along the Freedom Trail. The Boston Cream Pie it is the official state dessert of Massachusetts, and even though it’s called a pie, it’s actually a cake. Two layers of sponge cake, with a custard cream filling, topped with chocolate ganache. The Boston Cream Pie from The Omni Parker House has the perfect ration of custard to cake, and has just the right amount of sweetness.
Omni Parker House, 60 School St, Boston, MA 02108
Imagine chocolate bread pudding, but darker and smokier. This dessert from Alden & Harlow is comfort food – warm and soft, with the refreshing contrast of cool ice cream. But it’s comfort food at another level – with the smokiness normally associated with savory dishes making you sit up straight and take notice. Alden & Harlow is one of the newest restaurants to open in Harvard Square, and it is currently undeniably one of the hottest spots in town. Whether you go for the food or the cocktails or the scene, be sure to stay for the dessert.
Alden & Harlow, 40 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138
The Coconut Cream Pie from Myers + Chang can make even non-dessert people start gushing. It’s an individual sized pie with a buttery dough, sweet coconut cream filling, and lime whipped cream, finished with toasted coconut flakes. It’s simple, but spectacular, and people probably don’t expect such a spectacular dessert from an Asian restaurant. But Myers + Chang is not just any Asian restaurant. It’s a funky indie diner owned by a husband and wife team – with the wife being Joanne Chang, pastry chef extraordinaire, head of the wildly successful Flour bakeries, and cookbook author. Once you connect those dessert dots, the fantastic coconut cream pie is not that unexpected anymore.
Myers + Chang, 1145 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118
The olive oil ice cream from Ribelle is super creamy and luxurious, with an almost aggressive saltiness. It tastes exactly like good quality olive oil, smooth and almost fruity. It’s a modern adaptation of traditional ice cream, but it’s also a little retro because of the chocolate shell. Finished with sea salt, it’s served beside with a smoldering cinnamon stick that perfumes the dish with a mild smokiness.
Ribelle, 1665 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02445
This would not be a true chocoholic’s list without a separate award for a chocolate-centric dessert! (Yes, I am aware that most of the other desserts involve chocolate, too, but this one deserves its own section.) The Taza Chocolate Crèmeux from Harvest has house-made sea salt, salted caramel, brown sugar granola, milk chocolate, and malt sauce vanilla mascarpone. It’s like pastry chef Brian Mercury (who was named as one of Food & Wine’s Best New Pastry Chefs) looked inside my brain and transformed my chocolate dreams into this dessert. The cake is intensely fudgy, with a thick caramel filling, all offset nicely by the crunchy granola, creamy mascarpone, and flakes of sea salt. It is so very, very good.
Harvest, 44 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138
What’s your favorite dessert in Boston?
Bianca Garcia is the blogger behind Confessions of a Chocoholic. She thinks about dessert constantly.